Tag Archives: Ontario

(1086) Paying for all the nice things


Two features from well-regarded Canadian magazines about how we might produce cash for things of public good:
Canada is ready for toll roads and carbon taxes.  A majority of voters now favour user fees, but cowardly politicians are getting in the way
thewalrus.ca
Ontario is proving that taxing the one per cent works. Despite decades of tax cut rhetoric, you really can ask the rich to pay more taxes. Ontario did, and high-priced talent didn’t flee the province
macleans.ca

image: Marc Falardeau via Flickr/CC

(1092) Ontario mental health costs


Ontario does provide some public drug coverage to its citizenry and of course many employers provide benefit coverage as well.  For the mentally ill, things run a little thinner than we like.  The Toronto Star offers the final part in a series on the individual costs of mental health care at this link:
Many Ontarians with mental-health issues must choose between food and meds

image: Nancy L. Stockdale via Flickr/CC

(1086) Terminal planning

angelica
When we passed our 1000th posting and fifth anniversary this summer suburban-poverty.com decided other voices would be timely, nice.  Nicole N. Hanson, a west GTA planner with a specialty in cemetery and memorial space urbanism, is our first guest contributor.

Honestly, we never gave her area much thought.  Like true Canadians we assumed land for houses, roads, schools, arenas, airports and malls could never run out.  Same for cemeteries, mausoleums, crematories and the like.

Not the case.  Equity issues are surfacing fast as access to proper, culturally sensitive places for accommodating the dead tightens up.   Winging it in this area entails some social risk.  We may not know exactly what we need decades from now in terms of say transportation resources but we do know death is a guaranteed thing.  How to accommodate that need fairly in a hyper-diverse society where space and public resources are contested?

Well, that’s where Nicole comes in.  She writes…

Is there such a thing as suburban poverty in Ontario? What does it look like in neighbourhoods, on streetscapes? These are general questions that I do reflect on from time to time. I’m afraid I have little problem attaching the shortage of cemetery space in Peel Region, specifically in the city of Mississauga, to the term suburban poverty.
This is something of an ongoing crisis now and while it remains a quiet crisis, it nonetheless is one, and it affects a  Mississauga now home to a range of cultural values that need to be honoured and reflected in the fabric of the city. The shortage of cemetery space and lack of social funding for what can be overly expensive, emotionally fraught funeral services is linked to an essential need. The affordability of funeral service and cemetery products and services (graves, cremations, lots, crypts, flowers, music, monuments and markers) have begun to leave low- to middle-income families in precarious situations when trying to honour their beloved in a culturally appropriate, meaningful way.  Land-strapped municipalities are left quite strained attempting to equitably and spatially plan for death.
Mississauga has become a densified, built-out, car-dependent city  framed with an ever changing skyline (those Monroe towers are quite the sight!). Numerous wards are host to planning projects which support liveable streetscapes and active transportation networks.  Metrolinx’s Hurontario Street light rail transit project, for example, will bring twenty kilometres of rapid transit to Missisauga (and hopefully Brampton).  A similar maturity is seen in the Lakeview Master Plan and the Small Arms arts project within it.  Dundas Connects is also a master plan for the brutal sprawlscape of the Dundas Street  corrdior.
These are headline grabbing projects the City of Mississauga has underway to promote good planning under provincial legislation out to 2041. Despite all its post-suburban commerce, energy and general bustle poverty is still a problem here.  There is a lack of fair equity in the transportation system, a lack of affordable housing and now a lack of green spaces viable for cemetery land use or other employment as memorial landscapes. Given this, memorialization in Mississauga has become one of the issues of precarity alongisde employment and housing.
How does ‘death equity’ affect sprawl communities facing the future? Sprawl zones such as Peel and York regions are currently exploring their options for memorialization.  York initiated a Cemetery Needs Anaysis for the Official Plan Review 2041, conducted by LEES + Associates Architects and Land Use Planners. This is the first cemetery needs analysis undertaken by an upper-tier municipality in Ontario!
The City of Mississauga is currently exploring their inventory of cemetery and memorial lands against future needs via a feasibility study.  Like most councils in ‘younger’ municpalities the focus tends to be on such things as siting new office towers and parking issues, particularly in emerging core areas.  A million things compete for attention from Ontario’s municipal politicians besides the  political economy of death.
The Board of Funeral Services, which regulates the funeral industry under the Bereavement Authority of Ontario averages the cost of a funeral service to be roughly five thousand dollars.  More than two thousand dollars is needed for a typical casket and another one thousand five hundred dollars is needed for a vault. These figures do not include a cemetery plot, opening and closing fees for burial and for the marker or monument.  Reflect on the number of hours required to earn these things in a minimum wage job.
Based on our value systems and religious affiliations, how will people be able to acquire funerary and cemetery products and services and memoryscapes? Even with the rise of so-called celebration of life services, it is still hard to make ends meet for middle to low income families when they lose someone. This blog has aggregated a lot of material regarding the rise of precariatized living in Canada.  Unemployment created through advanced technology will also soon play against our ability to find resources for daily living, let alone for the dead.
How do we address precariousness in relation to death? Have we even begun to have conversations about how a precarious worker’s social class, race, religious values, and cultural traditions will be negotiated after death?
We can assign the increased role for cremation (Roman Catholics, for example, used to eschew cremation) not to cultural traditions but rather to individual income.  Without resources to buy pre-need and at-need cemetery supplies and services what do we do with a loved one’s remains? The percentage of cremation for final disposition of bodily remains in the GTA is now sixty-five per cent with thirty-five percent of us receiving traditional burial. The sixty-five per cent choosing cremation usually find themselves interred in an existing lot / plot, cemetery niche or scattered on Crown or private property. If double or triple depth lot use is permitted within a cemetery based on its bylaws; many interments will take place in the existing inventory of lots and plots where there is limited land available.
We are looking at a bottom line, so to speak, in which in the next ten to fifteen years it will be close to pretty much impossible to buy a cemetery space in the GTA unless it is purchased privately.

-Nicole N. Hanson

What happens when we run out of cemetery space?
tvo.org
Even death isn’t a complete equalizer. One woman pushes for equity in urban cemeteries around Toronto
thestar.com
See also: (471) Funeral poverty
image: Mark Strozler via Flickr/CC

(1076) Ontario food bank usage [Report]

kd
A smidgen of good news on food bank use in Ontario: a slight drop in the number of users.  The ‘hydro or food’ angle in this latest report from the Ontario Association of Food Banks was picked up in Orangeville, Sarnia, Guelph, Woodstock, the GTA, Hamilton, Parry Sound, Flamborough, Sault Ste. Marie, Belleville, London, the Kawarthas, North Bay, Ottawa, Niagara Region, Brant, Perth, Simcoe, Ingersoll, Cambridge, the Muskokas, Durham Region, you know, pretty much the entire province.
Number of food bank users down in Ontario but still 335,000 a month: report. High hydro bills, precarious work, inadequate social assistance all contributing, association says

image: Ginny via Flickr/CC

(1066) Food security & basic income

shopping-cart-in-the-snow
Good news, even as winter approaches: in 2017 Ontario can expect to see a basic income pilot project.  Hopefully that means that Canada’s largest province is on the path to adopting a benefit regime that will truly secure its people against poverty.  We’ve been sold on the idea of a universal right to an income for as long as we can remember.  It seems to us that nearly every form of social difficulty could be improved upon if nobody in this society was below a certain level.  On the other hand, we could indeed be looking at yet another ‘cycle of consultation’.  You know, another rationalised round of reportage, fact gathering and public hearings that  kick the issue of poverty down the road and toward the next election.  Public pressure might make all the difference, though.
Extra bonus: it would seem a good way to innoculate our society against the rise of Trumpist-style influences, a comprehensive ticket to change for the better.  This winter thoughts of a basic income will be keeping the staff at suburban-poverty.com feeling warm inside.
Basic income pilot consultation
ontario.ca
Basic income can reduce food insecurity and improve health
University of Toronto Faculty of Medicine

image: chuddlesworth via Flickr/CC

(1059) Woods & basements

vaughan-newmarket
Backlash.  We think that’s what you call it when an idea turns and inflicts a set of consequences.  In this case, it’s the sprawl so enthusiastically embraced in so many parts of southern Ontario in the 1980s and 1990s.  For lots of folks, SUVs and monster homes are still working well.  For others, not so much.  It seems a confluence of resources, inequality and a stunning lack of imagination are problematic indeed when it comes to community design.  To wit, recent pieces at cbc.ca/news.  Woods and basements, people.
Beyond Toronto’s borders, homeless means living in the woods. Camps of men without any place to go are situated on Newmarket’s fringes
Hidden poverty lurks in basements of Vaughan monster homes, advocates say. ‘They see the beautiful homes in Vaughan and say, ‘There’s no problem here’

(1056) Survey strengthens call to license landlords

landlordism
Downright backwards is how it seems to us that landlords are not licensed in a major city where rents are very high.  How else to keep standards strong?  A new survey of tenants reveals neglect on the part of many Toronto landlords, adding gravity to the call for licensing.
State of disrepair: tenant survey bolsters call for landlord licensing. Cockroaches, bedbugs, poor ventilation, faulty elevators and lack of heat top list of problems in Toronto apartments
thestar.com